3 Mar-A-Lago Members With No Experience Are Secretly Directing Policy At Department Of Veterans Affairs
Three members of President Donald Trump‘s Mar-a-lago Golf Club in Florida have “sweeping influence” over the Department of Veterans Affairs, ProPublica reported.
The group of three, led by Marvel Entertainment chairman Ike Perlmutter, is known within the VA as the “Mar-a-Lago Crowd.” They have used their relationship with the President and within the VA for personal gain, badgering career staff, pushing certain policies and products and ignoring government rules and processes.
According to ProPublica, Perlmutter was very open about the fact that they had been “anointed by the President and had his full support to influence policy at the VA” despite never being appointed as formal a adviser, the source said. “On any veterans issue, the first person the president calls is Ike,” another former official said. The other two members of the “crowd” are Bruce Moskowitz, a Palm Beach doctor and lawyer Marc Sherman.
White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said Perlmutter, Sherman and Moskowitz “have no direct influence over the Department of Veterans Affairs.” But hundreds of documents show that the Mar-a-Lago crowd spoke with VA officials daily, even prodding the VA to start new programs. Interviews with former administration officials brought to light that VA officials travelled to Mar-a-Lago at taxpayer expense. “Everyone has to go down and kiss the ring,” an official told ProPublica.
Last year, tension within the Trump administration grew about how much the VA should rely on private medical care leading to the firing of VA Secretary David Shulkin. During the campaign, Trump championed letting veterans see any doctor they choose, inside or outside the VA system. The investigation now found that Perlmutter, Moskowitz and Sherman pushed for expanded use of private-sector health options at the VA, proposing to invite “private health care executives to tell the VA which services they should outsource to private providers like themselves.”
In a statement, the trio denied any political influence. “At all times, we offered our help and advice on a voluntary basis, seeking nothing at all in return,” ProPublica reported. “While we were always willing to share our thoughts, we did not make or implement any type of policy, possess any authority over agency decisions, or direct government officials to take any actions…. To the extent anyone thought our role was anything other than that, we don’t believe it was the result of anything we said or did.”